BY JOEL SENSENIG | MIRROR SPORTS — The Anthony Wayne hockey team is looking to build off a historic season last year that saw it go 26-2 overall regular season and take the league title with an 11-0 record in the Northwest Hockey Conference White Division. Third-year coach Steve Boehme has a young but experienced squad hitting the ice this season. It’s a team he hopes will be up to the challenges it will face. One of the most obvious challenges is playing without Trevor Pennell, who played for AW last season after years of previously playing for a travel team in Michigan. Pennell went on to have arguably one of the most impressive seasons in Generals hockey history, tallying 78 goals and 26 assists (both team highs) for a total of 104 points. The team also lost some key seniors in Mitch Graver, Charlie Loeffler and Louis Pawliski, each of whom provided critical leadership on the ice and in the locker room. Still, Boehme has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this season’s roster of 21 players. “I think this team has more depth than what we’ve had previously and I think we’re learning to come together as a team,” he said. “Whereas last year we had focal points that were great in their own right, this year’s team is a lot better set as a team. I think we’re going to have a lot of success in that regard.” Boehme believes the team can begin to increase the school’s standing in Northwest Ohio as a hockey program. “We’re trying to take all of the success we had last year and push ourselves as a team and grow as an organization,” he said. “Historically, we’ve played at our level or maybe just barely above our level when you look at teams’ rankings at the end of the year. “When you look at what we’re doing this year, our win-loss record may not be as staggering as it was last year, but we’re playing teams that are far and away better than the teams we played last year.” The front line will be led by sophomore Drew Seals, the team’s leading returning scorer (29 goals, 21 assists). “He’s looking good so far,” Boehme said of his budding scoring star. “He’s going to be counted on quite a bit for the offensive side of things this year, so hopefully we can get him going early on with a couple pucks in the net.” This year’s team will boast five seniors, four of whom are returning: forwards Brad Hood and Jake Caputo and defensive players Zach Owens and Jeremiah Posadny. Owens broke his ankle in a preseason game and is expected to miss about six weeks, putting his return slightly after the midway point of the year. Jackson Wyper, a member of the AW lacrosse team, is a newcomer to the hockey team who hasn’t played on the ice in a number of years but has picked things up rather quickly, Boehme said. “He was a little rusty at first, but he’s coming along, learning the system,” Boehme said. “He had a good preseason in terms of getting into the mix.” Hood (11 goals, 22 assists last season) is a fourth-year player who his coach expects to serve as a leader on the squad. “He’s going to be wearing the captain’s C this year,” Boehme said. “An extremely smart hockey player, a great leader and already this preseason has been the heart and soul of this team. “It’s been good to see him take on that leadership role. I expect a big year for him. He’s been one of the main vocal leaders we’ve had so far in the early part of the season.” Although he was unfortunately injured to begin the year, Boehme expects Owens to serve as a leader on the back end of the ice when he’s able to play again. “The hope is that everything heals properly and there are no issues down the road,” he said. Caputo is a four-year player Boehme hopes to see take the next step in his development as a leader. “He’s also a locker room guy. He brings a lot from the vocal side of things and I hope I can push him into a little more of a leadership position and mentor some of the younger guys,” Boehme said. Posadny is a home-schooled student who is entering his third year with the Generals. He will serve as an assistant captain. “I’m expecting him to have a pretty big role defensively, especially because Zach is down for a majority of the year.” A junior who will be a major force on the team is goalie Sam Thomas. Between the posts, Thomas helped AW to a 21-2 record last season while stopping 90 percent of the shots taken on him. In the early part of the season, Thomas is looking to be in fine form, his coach noted. He has helped the Generals compete for most of the preseason games against bigger programs such as Findlay, Bedford and St. John’s. “He kept us in the Findlay game until the third period and that was mainly on his shoulders,” Boehme said. “I’m hoping he’s able to stay focused and have a huge season for us. He’s a heck of a goaltender. “It’s nice to have that kind of a luxury to know on the back end that even if something happens defensively, you still have Sam in the net to take care of things.” Sophomore defenseman Zach Knapp is making his AW debut this season after playing travel hockey. “He’s an extremely good defenseman, just a knowledgeable hockey player,” Boehme said. “He’s a huge addition to the team defensively and as an offensive defenseman. He has a lot of speed and a knack for getting the puck to the net.” The team’s large sophomore class includes the likes of Joel Semancik, Jesse Rose, Logan Schuster and Kyle Hendrix. All four of them played on a travel team together in the offseason. “All of them are looking pretty good and I think they’re going to have a huge impact on the season as well,” Boehme said. The Generals will play nearly half of their games this season at Bowling Green State University’s Slater Family Ice Arena, which it hopes to make its home ice from this point forward. “We’ve never really had a home necessarily as far as a rink goes,” Boehme said. “It’s something that the Anthony Wayne hockey board and myself are kind of trying to make BG our home and trying to establish that as a place we have a lot of our home games.” The Generals open up their regular season at BGSU at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, November 17 when they face Alter (Dayton area). They follow that up with a game at Toledo’s Hunting-ton Center at noon on Saturday, November 18 against Beavercreek. For more information, visit the team’s website, www.awhockey.com.